I dunno. I'm so conflicted. The main thing I took away from reading this is that Lori Wilde is a virtuoso. She managed to take about a dozen tired (and tiresome?) cliches and turn them into something pretty good. Ultimately, I didn't love the story. I thought the stereotypes finally won the battle, but that didn't stop me from appreciating how superbly LW wielded her pen against them.
I will outline the Him/Her/Conflict through all the cliched elements in the story so I can explain what I mean a little better. Just a quick point - I am not giving away the spoilers with each of these cliches - there really isn't a twist anywhere - just regular, vanilla, romance-novel stereotypes that LW manages to coat in just enough savvy so I just manage to choke them down. Only just.
Cliche 1: Big City Girl Goes to Small Cowboy Town and Point That Small Town People are All Wonderful Heart-of-the-Land Types and Big City People are Stone Cold Bastards is Brought Home.*
*Except for the one obligatory small town villain who is a total anomaly but who is swiftly brought to justice so the heart-of-the-landers can continue to live their wholesome, perfect lives, unblemished by evil.
Cliche 2: Girl Starts on Path to Self-discovery But First, Needs to Do Some Shopping to "Pretty Woman" Herself Into Her New Part
It's like the path to self discovery simply cannot occur without a new pair of shoes and a kick@ss outfit. Even if you're broke and can't afford it. But what am I saying! YOU wouldn't have to buy those clothes, silly, the GUY would! He would do it because he wants you to be happy and if new shoes make you happy, then you got 'em baby! It is absolutely not a subtle symbol of chauvinism at all! Don't be so sensitive. I mean, you could buy those shoes yourself, obviously. That's what credit is for. You only let him buy them for you because it seemed to be something he wanted to do.
I am being annoying about this point only because I think we can do better. This scene doesn't have to be there in romance novels anymore (unless this is a historical where it may be appropriate for the time). Authors can show the H's caring, kind nature some other way besides the old, "here's some money - go get yourself something shiny, hon" way.
Cliche 3: Girl Can "Have It All" if Having It All Involves Realizing That She Wants What Her Man Wants (Really, She Really, Really Wants What Her Man Wants).
Signs that indicate that she really Has It All are exhibited in an Epilogue that contains the following. (If all these elements are not present, you are reading a horror/suspense story where someone will die in a terrifying and horrific way. Be warned.)
- Baby and/or pregnancy: If there's no bouncing little mini-me or at least a pregnancy in progress, then she has failed the Have It All test.
- She has a career - kind of: It's not the career she thought she wanted. No, that was misguided and totally not for her. Being in love with her Man showed her that.
- Small City trumps Big City: C'mon guys, there's a baby involved. No one in the history of time has raised a family in a Big City. It's a proven fact that the water in Big Cities causes birth defects and babies are born with tiny dragon wings and horns. Besides, her Man lives in a Small Town and he turned out great.
- She and her Man are still as attracted to one another as they were when they first hook up: We know this because they still gaze upon one another with passion and longing (even though they haven't slept for the past 5 nights on account of their Perfect Baby). If there is no explicit reference to how his eyes shine when he looks at her and how she glows with inner happiness, then you are reading a story where someone is about to get murdered.
Cliche 4: Referencing "Sleepless In Seattle" to Indicate What Perfect Love Looks Like Even Though The Movie Literally Never Showed The Actual Relationship Between Tom and Meg
|Sleepless in Seattle - best movie ever because it showed that NY IS a romantic place and not just full of angry cabbies|
I can't. I just can't. I LOVE this movie. I don't have the words to describe how much I ADORE this movie. But to reference it in a romance novel for adults is a head-frack of epic proportions. And then to actually have the characters sit down and analyze Tom and Meg, and ACTUALLY ENACT SOMETHING from the movie...it's just too much.
There is a thin red line between cuteness and nauseation and this just breached that barrier like an F16 fighter jet through a wispy lace negligee.
So you see how I was flummoxed by the book? It contained many of the tropes I find distasteful but LW handled them so sincerely that I had to swallow my scowl and just read on. Did I buy the Happily Ever After? Yeah, sure. Why not? Maybe cliches are cliches because they are true for so many people and I just need to get over it. Alls I know is that Lori Wilde can write a story.